Henry’s Favorite Wine (These Days)
If northern Piemonte were stock, I would invest in it.
By Henry Beylin, Gjelina Group’s Wine + Beverage Director
The wines of Northern Piemonte were once well known, sought out and highly coveted, but that was long ago. Phylloxera (a vine louse), a massive hail storm, and folks moving away from the countryside into cities (someone needed to build all those Fiats) left decimated the local wine production, and with the ascension of Barolo and Barbaresco, the Northern Piemonte Appellations were relegated to minor status or just forgotten all together. But things are changing. Northern Piemonte is a collection of recognized Appellations, the best known of which are Ghemme and Gattinara. Some wines from the zone are 100% Nebbiolo and some blend Nebbiolo with local grapes, Vespolina, a relative of Nebbiolo and Uva Rara. In general, the wines of Northern Piemonte are lighter, fresher, more mineral and elegant than their Barolo counterparts, making them easier to drink, especially when young. In general; there are exceptions. The differences come from the local climate and the soils. It's cooler, windier and drier up here giving the wines an intense aroma and mineral rich character that makes them feel springloaded on the palate. They seem to levitate. Aside from all this, the wines tend to be beautiful, intricate, classy and surprisingly agile.
The Fara Appellation of Northern Piemonte comprises only 12 acres making it one of the world’s smallest recognised wine zones. The fact that the Slow Food Movement is based in Piemonte and this tiny zone still exists is not a coincidence. Diversity, no matter how small, needs to be supported and celebrated. None of this would matter if the wine in question would suck. But it does not suck. It's soulful and endearing. What makes a wine worth drinking is its ability to speak with its own voice. Our wine today certainly does. But it will not shout. Sometimes we just need to quiet down, or we won't hear it.
Nebbiolo is Italy's greatest wine grape. It has incredible dimension, depth, class, elegance and a central core of power that enables its differences to become in and of themselves noble. And that's the cogent element. It's not trying to be Barolo and respects its tiny plot of earth. In fact the Boniperti Barton comes from a 1 acre sized vineyard. It is comprised of 70% Nebbiolo, 30% Vespolina and lots of charm. It has a soft and supple tannic structure with precise and intense flavors of red forest berries, bitter cherries, savory cool herbs, dried flowers, baking spices and earth notes. It combines a density of flavor with a light bearing. It is stylish and pure and alive. And it's so damn delicious, which is the best tasting note of all. Drink it with all the relevant foods, roasted meats, pastas with a rich sauce component, fully cooked fish, on your porch or when you're doing something you probably shouldn't be. It won't make you a better person but it will slow you down. In the best of ways.
Boniperti Vignaioli, Barton, Fara d.o.c. Nebbiolo/Vespolina 2017 is available at Gjelina.